Sony Xperia 5 III review: Small yet sumptuous

Sony is back with its second 2021 smartphone powered by flagship specifications with the Xperia 5 III. Sony’s more compact smartphone sits as a slightly less expensive alternative to the $1,299 Sony Xperia 1 III while still packing in nearly all the company’s bells and whistles.

Even so, the Xperia 5 III isn’t the most affordable smartphone on the market, starting as it does at £899 (~$1,200) in the UK. That’s a notable £100 more than last year’s Xperia 5 II, too. The phone faces stiff competition in the sub-£1,000 price segment, which includes flagship-grade phones from Apple, OnePlus, Samsung, and others. So let’s dive into our Sony Xperia 5 III review to see if the phone has what it takes to stand out from the crowd.

About this Sony Xperia 5 III review: I tested the Sony Xperia 5 III (8GB/128GB) over a period of five days. It was running Android 11 (61.0.A.11.31) on the July security patch. The unit was provided by Sony for this review.

What you need to know about the Sony Xperia 5 III

Sony Xperia 5 III camera housing Zeiss logo

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

  • Sony Xperia 5 III (8GB/128GB): £899
  • Sony Xperia 5 III (8GB/256GB): TBC

The Sony Xperia 5 III is the little brother to this year’s flagship Sony Xperia 1 III. Weighing in at 168g, 8.2mm thick, and just 157mm tall, this is a marginally more compact smartphone than most. At least by modern standards, as it’s certainly not a small phone.

Even so, the trimmer handset is positioned as a powerhouse smartphone, packing the same high-end processor, camera, 5G specs, and other hardware bits from its more expensive sibling. There are a few small changes that add up to some meaningful differences between the two, but these are arguably necessary in order to distill Sony’s formula down to a more affordable price bracket.

See also: Sony Xperia 1 III review — Elegant, exhilarating, expensive

Key specification changes include a smaller 6.1-inch OLED display with Sony’s signature 21:9 aspect ratio. It retains the 120Hz refresh rate but offers a more traditional FHD resolution rather than the Xperia 1 III’s 4K panel. The Xperia 5 III also has 8GB rather than 12GB RAM and lacks the wireless charging and 3D time-of-flight camera capabilities of its bigger sibling. But aside from that, the two are a close match on paper.

Sony’s Xperia 5 III is available in black and green color options and in two storage configurations: 128GB or 256GB, both with a microSD card with support for up to 1TB additional storage. However, the storage options appear to be limited by region so you might not have a choice when it comes to checkout. UK customers, for example, can only buy the 128GB variant.

The Sony Xperia 5 III is confirmed for launch in the US but we’re yet to hear about a final release date. The price is also unconfirmed, though a Best Buy store page lists the phone’s price at $999.

Is the smaller design still as good?

At a casual glance, the Sony Xperia 5 III looks every bit as eye-catching as its bigger brother. Sony’s monolith, with its trim bezels, refined chin, and glass back is a timelessly good look. Even though the phone is already a more wieldy 6.1-inches, the long 21:9 aspect ratio ensures the handset is easy to handle and a joy to use in one hand.

Just like its predecessor, the Xperia 5 III features dedicated camera shutter and Google Assistant buttons. I’m a fan of the camera shutter — it’s a quick shortcut to open the camera without unlocking the phone. Unfortunately, the Google Assistant button can’t be remapped, making it a redundant feature for those who aren’t big into voice search. Sony leans heavily into Google’s ecosystem in other areas too, leveraging its file manager, calendar, Google Photos gallery, and other apps.

The Xperia 5 III looks sublime but isn’t built as robustly as Sony’s more expensive Xperia 1 III.

The build feels notably cheaper than the ultra-premium Sony Xperia 1 III, which isn’t unexpected given the £300 price difference. The chassis feels like plastic, as do the buttons, but we’ve asked Sony to confirm what material we’re dealing with here and will update accordingly. This leaves the device feeling less sturdy and reassuring in the hand, particularly where the volume rocker is concerned. I’m not convinced that these buttons will survive rigorous pressing over many years.

Sony Xperia 1 III vs Sony Xperia 5 III buttons

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Another less obvious absence is the use of slightly older Gorilla Glass 6 rather than Gorilla Glass Victus. As such, the Xperia 5 III only has half the scratch resistance of the Xperia 1 III. This certainly doesn’t mean the phone is scratch-prone, as Gorilla Glass 6 still offers decent protection. But it’s another area that Sony has cut back on to make the smaller model more affordable. It does, however, retain the same IP65/68 water and dust resistance as the Xperia 1 III.

Overall, Sony’s Xperia 5 III feels great to use and certainly looks the part of an expensive handset. However, you can’t have it all these days for less than $1,000, and the phone has a few design niggles that might disappoint those looking for the absolute best.

Is the camera as good as the Xperia 1 III?

Sony Xperia 1 III vs Sony Xperia 5 III cameras

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Just based on its paper specs, the Sony Xperia 5 III is undoubtedly a top-notch camera phone. In reality, it’s probably my favorite handset to shoot with this year, partly because it’s not outrageously expensive. Powered by virtually identical hardware to the Xperia 1 III, including the switchable focal length periscope camera, you’re well covered for excellent colors, detail, ultra-wide snaps, and zoom at both intermediate and long ranges. The only thing missing is the time-of-flight sensor, which perhaps helps the Xperia 1 III with low-light focusing — but I couldn’t tell it was missing. You can see the full-res pictures in this Google Drive folder.

The majority of the snaps I’ve taken look very good, if not excellent. But just as importantly, the Xperia 5 III is so much fun to take out shooting. The high-quality periscope camera leaves me unafraid to zoom in, unlike other phones where an inconsistent zoom can ruin your pictures. Meanwhile, the switchable focal length grants an extra tool to frame portraits and macro images.

The Xperia 5 III has a fun and formidable camera setup for under £1,000.

The ultra-wide lens offers a familiar extra dimension for fitting more into your shot, which I’ve found particularly great for landscapes. Sadly, extreme HDR and low light performance aren’t as good as the best in the business. The phone also lacks a dedicated multi-frame night shooting option. Instead, it relies on long exposure, which often produces blurry results in less than ideal lighting situations, let alone at night.

The selfie camera is not as good. While colors and detail are passable, if not a little rough in well-lit scenarios, the sensor can’t handle selfies in lower light without noticeable noise. Furthermore, Sony’s Selfie Bokeh feature still has some of the worst edge detection I’ve seen in a smartphone for some time. It’s barely suitable for a quick social media snap and little else. It’s a real shame that might, quite rightly, put many off this otherwise excellent camera package.

Related: The best camera phones you can get

Sony returns to form in the video department. You can shoot 4K footage at up to 120 frames per second, although you need to master Sony’s Cinema Pro app to get the most out of the phone’s capabilities. There’s a bewildering assortment of options on offer for pro videographers, but the range of settings might be a little daunting for more typical users.

Overall, I’m a fan of the Xperia 5 III’s camera setup although it’s definitely not an all-around to suit every taste. I rate it as a highly portable, affordable, yet flexible setup for serious photographers, who have the skills and patience to work around the phone’s flaws. For a closer at how Sony’s latest camera setup performs with the near-identical Xperia 1 III, check out our in-depth shootout versus some of the best camera phones.

How is the battery life?

Sony Xperia 5 III front facing on windowsill

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Sony’s recent smartphones have handed in some impressive battery life and the Xperia 5 III is no different. The 4,500mAh battery offers well over a day’s worth of screen-on time for browsing the web, checking email, and the like. You’re looking at eight or more hours of screen-on time for these less demanding tasks, which might take some through two whole days on a single charge. However, note the display defaults to 60Hz out of the box, so 120Hz users will knock an hour or two off these figures.

Long downloading and gaming sessions definitely chug down the juice a lot faster. I clocked closer to four to five hours of charge with heavy gaming thrown in, which is still better than most phones. Those who really love to game on the go might want to use Sony’s Game Optimizer to limit frame rates below 60Hz or optimize for battery life rather than performance to eke out some additional screen time.

As for charging, the Sony Xperia 5 III is bundled with a 30W USB Power Delivery plug, which sounds reasonably fast on paper. However, the phone takes close to two hours to reach full charge, which is painfully slow compared to other smartphones in its price range and even below in some cases. That said, the handset reaches a rather usable 50% charge in just under 30 minutes, so you don’t have to wait around all day if you’re in need of a quick top-up. Still, we’d expect a bit faster from a 30W charging solution. As previously mentioned, there’s no wireless charging here, which might disappoint some considering similarly priced phones offer it as standard.

How powerful is the Xperia 5 III?

Sony Xperia 5 III pre installed apps

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

With a high-end Snapdragon 888 processor and 8GB of RAM onboard, Sony’s Xperia 5 III is a snappy performer for both apps and games. I didn’t notice any stutters or slowdowns when multi-tasking and the phone kept a fluid pace during extended Call of Duty: Mobile sessions. Although Genshin Impact’s frame rate was notably lower, as it is with most phones.

Speaking of gaming, Sony’s Game Enhancer software offers a wide range of per-game optimizations, allowing you to prioritize performance, graphical fidelity, or battery life, along with various other settings. It’s a nice touch to help you get the most out of the phone, whether you’re gaming at home or on the go.

When it comes to benchmarks, the handset ranks near the top of the pile for both CPU, GPU, and system-wide scores. You can see a selection of popular suites tested below. Interestingly the phone’s memory doesn’t seem quite as speedy as the Xperia 1 III. Perhaps another cost-cutting measure. Still, the phone also scored one minute and 19 seconds in our in-house Speed Test G benchmark. This puts it in the mix with the Xiaomi Mi 11’s 1:12, the OnePlus 9 Pro’s 1:15, and marginally faster than the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, which took 1:21.

If you are after the absolute fastest networking speeds, you won’t find them here. Although the Xperia 5 III supports Bluetooth 5.2, Wi-Fi 6 for local networks, and sub-6GHz 5G wireless bands, it’s missing the mmWave 5G support you’ll find in other premium smartphones. Granted, 5G mmWave isn’t important in many global markets just yet. But when you’re spending premium-tier cash you want some element of futureproofing for years to come, and Sony’s latest smartphones aren’t as good value here as the competition.

Anything else?

Sony Xperia 5 III in hand Google Assistant software

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

  • Audio playback: With a 3.5mm headphone jack, high-end Bluetooth codecs, DSEE Ultimate music upscaling, 360 Reality Audio, and decent dual front-facing speakers, the handset has audiophiles well catered for — although the speakers could use a little more bass.
  • Display quality: Even without a 4K resolution, Sony’s latest display looks great. The Xperia 5 III packs in a high level of display customization for those who love to tweak image settings.
  • No adaptive display: Sony’s display runs at 60Hz out of the box. You can lock the panel to 120Hz for a smoother look at the expense of battery life, but note that the phone doesn’t offer a more battery-efficient adaptive display mode.
  • Side-mounted fingerprint scanner: While perfectly snappy and serviceable, Sony’s side-mounted fingerprint scanner feels dated compared to in-display equivalents.
  • Software bloat: Sony’s take on the Android OS is kept reasonably clean while mixing the best of Google’s ecosystem and Sony’s custom tweaks and first-party apps. However, the handset comes bundled with a number of pre-installed apps that can only be disabled rather than completely removed. These include Facebook, Linkedin, Call of Duty Mobile, Tidal, and Netflix.
  • Sony’s lack of update promise: Sony hasn’t committed to an update roadmap for the Xperia 5 III. The Xperia 1 III looks to receive two major Android updates. We imagine, but can’t be 100% certain, its smaller variant will see the same. We’ve asked Sony for clarity on the subject and will update accordingly. Regardless, this is far from the best commitment in the business with three years of upgrades swiftly becoming the expected standard for flagship Android phones.

Sony Xperia 5 III specs

Sony Xperia 5 III Sony Xperia 1 III
Display

Sony Xperia 5 III:

6.1-inch OLED
21:9 aspect ratio
FHD resolution
120Hz refresh rate
240Hz touch sampling rate
Gorilla Glass 6

Sony Xperia 1 III:

6.5-inch OLED
21:9 aspect ratio
4K resolution
120Hz refresh rate
240Hz touch sampling rate
Gorilla Glass Victus

Processor

Sony Xperia 5 III:

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

Sony Xperia 1 III:

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888

RAM

Sony Xperia 5 III:

8GB

Sony Xperia 1 III:

12GB

Storage

Sony Xperia 5 III:

128 or 256GB
Expandable

Sony Xperia 1 III:

256GB
Expandable

Power

Sony Xperia 5 III:

4,500mAh battery
30W wired charging
Charger included in box
No wireless charging

Sony Xperia 1 III:

4,500mAh battery
30W wired charging
Charger included in box
Wireless charging
Reverse wireless charging

Cameras

Sony Xperia 5 III:

Rear:

1) 12MP main (24mm)
1/1.7″ sensor
ƒ1.7, dual-PD auto-focus, OIS

2) 12MP ultra-wide (16mm)
1/2.6″ sensor
ƒ2.2, dual-PD auto-focus

3) 12MP telephoto (70mm/105mm)
1/2.9″ sensor
ƒ2.3/ƒ2.8, dual-PD auto-focus, OIS

Front:

1) 8MP single

Sony Xperia 1 III:

Rear:

1) 12MP main (24mm)
1/1.7″ sensor
ƒ1.7, dual-PD auto-focus, OIS

2) 12MP ultra-wide (16mm)
1/2.6″ sensor
ƒ2.2, dual-PD auto-focus

3) 12MP telephoto (70mm/105mm)
1/2.9″ sensor
ƒ2.3/ƒ2.8, dual-PD auto-focus, OIS

4) 3D iToF sensor

Front:

1) 8MP single

Video

Sony Xperia 5 III:

Cinema Pro 4K at 120fps

Sony Xperia 1 III:

Cinema Pro 4K at 120fps

Audio

Sony Xperia 5 III:

3.5mm headphone jack
Dolby Atmos and DSEE Ultimate
360 Spatial Sound

Sony Xperia 1 III:

3.5mm headphone jack
Dolby Atmos and DSEE Ultimate
360 Spatial Sound

Connectivity

Sony Xperia 5 III:

5G support (Sub6 only, no mmWave)
Dual SIM hybrid (5G + 4G) or SIM + microSD

Sony Xperia 1 III:

5G support (Sub6 only, no mmWave)
Dual SIM hybrid (5G + 4G) or SIM + microSD

Security

Sony Xperia 5 III:

Side-mounted fingerprint sensor

Sony Xperia 1 III:

Side-mounted fingerprint sensor

Durability

Sony Xperia 5 III:

IP65 against dust
IP68 against water
Gorilla Glass 6

Sony Xperia 1 III:

IP65 against dust
IP68 against water
Gorilla Glass Victus

Software

Sony Xperia 5 III:

Android 11

Sony Xperia 1 III:

Android 11

Dimensions and weight

Sony Xperia 5 III:

157 x 68 x 8.2mm
168g

Sony Xperia 1 III:

165 x 71 x 8.2mm
186g

Colors

Sony Xperia 5 III:

Black
Green

Sony Xperia 1 III:

Frosted Black
Frosted Purple

Value and competition

Sony Xperia 5 III press image

Sony Xperia 5 III

Compact phone, smaller price

The Xperia 5 III is a smartphone purpose-built for multimedia, photography, and gaming with a more palatable price tag than Sony’s ultra-premium Xperia 1 III.

At £899 in the UK and an expected price of around $1,000 in the US, the Xperia 5 III is positioning itself against some of the best phones in the sector. In fact, it’s a fraction more expensive than many of its competitors yet lacks some of the popular features you’ll find at this price point. Without super-fast charging, wireless charging, mmWave 5G, or an in-display fingerprint reader, it’s not unfair to call the Xperia 5 III expensive.

The 6.2-inch Samsung Galaxy S21 ($799/£769), for instance, is not only cheaper, but includes wireless charging, mmWave 5G option in some markets, and will be supported with Android platform updates for three years and security patches for four years. If you’re after more of an all-rounder rather than a strictly multimedia- and camera-focused phone, the Galaxy S21 is the better buy. If you want all that in a fractionally larger form factor, the Galaxy S21 Plus ($999) is also worth considering.

More ideas: The best Android phones money can buy

Likewise, Apple’s latest iPhone 13 ($799/£799) is also a slightly more affordable 6.1-inch phone with wireless charging on board. The OnePlus 9 Pro ($969/£829) should also be on your radar at this price. It offers equally powerful display and processing specifications as the Xperia, along with faster wired and wireless charging capabilities.

However, if you’re big into photography and videography, Sony’s camera package is perhaps worth springing the extra cash for compared with these three rivals. The main reason to buy the Xperia 5 III over the competition is to grab Sony’s best-in-class multimedia features. Importantly, the Xperia 5 III is a better deal for those who have coveted the Xperia 1 III ($1,299), but can’t quite justify the lofty price tag.

Sony Xperia 5 III review: The verdict

Sony Xperia 5 III face down on grid

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

Much like its bigger sibling, the Sony Xperia 5 III excels when it comes to rear camera photography, its display and multi-media features, and all-day battery life. Sadly, the phone doesn’t quite capture the stellar aesthetics of the Xperia 1 III but the design remains close enough and still stands out in this price bracket. Overall, it’s another very good phone from Sony, if not on the expensive side once again.

As much as I’ve enjoyed my time with the Xperia 5 III, it certainly doesn’t have it all. The lack of wireless charging and 5G mmWave, combined with a mediocre selfie camera and slow charging leaves the phone feeling a little rough in places. Of course, we expected some downgrades compared to the Xperia 1 III to make the phone more affordable. But Sony has discarded a few too many of the elite features that gave the Xperia 1 III its wow factor. As such, the Xperia 5 III is less appealing, even at a lower price.

Sony’s Xperia 5 III hosts a sumptuous banquet of multimedia delicacies.

The lack of a clear update roadmap is equally unfortunate for a phone looking to command such a premium. Enthusiasts can probably overlook these negatives, but there are more than a few glaring omissions when compared side-by-side with the stiff competition.

To sum up, buy the Xperia 5 III if you’re looking for a fun but imperfect camera setup, customizable gaming features, all-day battery life, and all the best multimedia capabilities that Sony has to offer. Just be aware you’ll have to contend with a lack of 5G futureproofing, pre-installed apps with irritating notifications, and an unclear update policy. If you’re in the market for a slightly more well-rounded phone with better longevity, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 remains a hard phone to beat. It also happens to cost a little less too.

Above article first published by Source link . We curated and re-published.

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